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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Mufti Sayeed


Besides many attributes, Mufti Sayeed will undoubtedly be associated with an exceptional political longevity. Mufti emerged in politics of Kashmir in 1960s during a period that can be benignly termed as synthetic or artificial in a long saga of charades played out in the state. That superfluous era in Kashmir commenced with dismissal of Sheikh Abdullah from the state premiership and his subsequent long incarceration. The politics in Kashmir became permanently tethered to illegitimacy that was propped and maintained in no uncertain manner by dangling carrots and stinging sticks on the hinds of those who became willing part of that masquerade. Mufti Sayeed was part of Democratic National Conference (DNC) that came to power following the assumption of the office of Prime Minister of State by Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq in 1964 and within a year DNC transformed into local branch India’s ruling National Congress. The Prime Minister Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq, himself became Chief Minister together with a consequential transformation of the office of head of the state ‘Sadr-e-riyasat’ to that of Governor. The latter change was not merely invidious but it struck at the basic character of the state constitution. The state constitution had specific provision for head of the state as an official elected by the state legislature, in contrast to other states of the union that had governors nominated by the President of Indian Union at the recommendation of the union cabinet. That act not only eroded the unique character of the state guaranteed by the provisions of article 370 but happened to be blatantly illegal. Under the provisions of the state constitution any changes to the act could be carried out only with consent of the state constituent assembly, which had dissolved in 1957 under the chairmanship of none other than Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq.
Mufti Sayeed was very much part of that Machiavellian period that bereft of any democratic legitimacy thrived on intrigues and pleasures of the central government. He happened to be in Syed Mir Qasim group that dissented against and tried to dislodge Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq from the office until the true nature of their elected offices in the state and central legislatures was brought home to them by the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Syed Mir Qasim did become Chief Minister of the state following the death of Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq in 1972 and Mufti Sayeed a cabinet minister. The accord of 1975 saw them relinquishing their offices and Sheikh Abdullah returned as the Chief Minister. That point onwards, Mufti Sayeed played less than a savory role in the state and left himself, to be guided by narrow political and personal expediencies that had dire consequences and in many ways could be partly held responsible for the tragic era that Kashmir went on to endure. But then he was not the only politician who contributed to the greater tragedy of Kashmir. The return of Sheikh Abdullah put the minions of that synthetic era into their proper place through complete and repetitive rout in properly held state elections from 1977 onwards. Mufti himself could not escape stinging defeat at hustings in his home constituency of Bijbehara.   
Nevertheless, even after being defeated in elections, Mufti was part of the plot that led to the ouster of Farooq Abdullah government in 1984 by that divisive Jagmohan at the behest of Indira Gandhi. That still did not constitute his most unpardonable act, which would come later in form of reappointment of Jagmohan as the state governor in 1989 when militancy in the state was still in its infancy. People in their thousands had yet to die and the migrations of the Hindus had yet to start. That act of Mufti Sayeed as the Union minister had tragic consequences far beyond anyone had imagined. After having switched parties and squeezed into parliament from a constituency in UP, he was inducted into the central cabinet of V. P. Singh as the home minister, in charge of internal security. His conduct during the kidnap of his daughter and his vengeance to settle scores with Farooq Abdullah had consequences beyond tragic. Though in later years he did resurrect himself and his fledgling party in the state electoral politics that too with substantial success and became Chief Minister in 2002, a tenure that turned out to be in many ways relatively successful. Then the lure of the office and tragedy of Kashmir once again in the very late stage of his life forced him into the blunder of joining hands with communalists, which will always remain a blot on his legacy.
At personal level Mufti Sayeed was always amiable and an approachable person. He died this morning at the age of 79.
-Rajiv Kumar